Colorado.FM Interview with Eric Larsen
“Adventure really strips bare the person that you are.”
Thanks for tuning in to this really special episode of the Colorado.FM podcast.
In this episode, it was my privilege to speak with world renowned adventurer and polar explorer Eric Larsen. Eric is included in Men’s Journal’s list of ‘The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years.’ and coverage of his exploits have appeared in Time Magazine, Outside Magazine, the NY Times and many other publications.
North Pole expeditions are widely considered to be the most difficult adventures on the planet. Eric has been to the North Pole three times, with the first being in 2006. The next time in 2010 was part of his Save the Poles expedition in which Eric became the first person to make it to the North Pole, South Pole and top of Mt Everest in a single year.
Finally, Eric’s 2014 North Pole expedition was documented and can be seen in the series titled ‘Melting: The Last Race to the Pole’ on Animal Planet and can be read about in his book On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic.
Have Fun, Do Good
Our conversation ranges from Eric’s activity in groups that are working to bring attention to climate change issues, such as Protect Our Winters, to why his expedition was very likely to be the last time anyone stands on the North Pole.
I can’t recommend watching the documentary enough. It is truly amazing to see what it takes to make this kind of feat a success and what is happening to our planet in places that are rarely seen. I was totally gripped.
And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links find Eric and all the related content, videos, his book, and group’s Eric supports in the show notes below.
Selected Links from the Episode
Connect with Eric:
Books, Articles, Video by Eric Larsen:
Documentary: Melting: The Last Race to the Pole – Animal Planet
Book: On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic – Eric Larsen
In Praise of an Unforgiving Arctic – Outside
Alone on the Ice – Outside
How to Weather a Storm – Outside
Listen to a phone call from the North Pole – Redbull.com
The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years – Men’s Journal
This is the most difficult expedition on the planet – Great Big Story (Video)
[2:35] Protect Our Winters: Just back from Washington DC
[6:00] Growing up in the Larsen household in Wisconsin
[9:30] Connecting the dots – The path to a career in adventure
[10:30] What brought Eric to Colorado
[14:00] The supportive adventure community in Boulder
[16:30] The expeditions – Because they might not be there in the future
[17:30] Seeing climate change first hand
[23:00] Recording the most difficult on the planet
[24:30] Choosing the right expedition partner – Expedition partner newlywed game
[29:00] Doing one thing for 2 months
[30:30] Needs vs wants – How adventure clarifies decisions
[32:00] The ongoing process of digesting lessons from adventure
[33:15] Life between expeditions
[38:30] Coloradothon! What’s next…
[42:15] Favorite spots and activities in Colorado
[45:50] Wrap up – Who Eric wants to hear on the podcast!
Hey Eric Thanks for swinging by. Really appreciate you taking the time out of your pretty busy travel schedule to be on the show of course. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. That’s really kind of a real Explorer here I must say it’s something I was hoping would happen on this podcast. I didn’t know when or how soon. So again I appreciate it. You just flew in from Washington D.C. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing up there.
Yes so I you know I work with a lot of different nonprofits. You know realistically bigger answer. Most of my expeditions are really platforms to talk about ideas and issues that are just bigger than myself and as someone who’s been focused on cold places for nearly all my life. A huge part of what I want to do is protect those places and so I work with a lot of climate change based organizations on a variety of initiatives and one of those is Protect Our Winters which is also based in Boulder.
And so there is a bunch of us who are kind of athletes ambassadors and the snowsports industries that were in Washington D.C. just kind of knocking on Congress doors and saying hey what are you doing about climate change. What legislations are you working on and how can we move the needle on on kind of the things that are going on in Congress that are going to facilitate clean energy renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions.Read More
Yeah it was funny. I just totally coincidentally saw I guess Gretchen Bleiler. Yeah and post about a silver medalist and I think half pipe is. Yeah I think so. And you know she was mentioning some attempts to kind of go across the aisle like was that was it. Were you feeling anything from yeah.
You know I think I think everybody who was there I mean there was like a list of like pretty impressive winter athletes from like Gretchen to Alex Deeble who is like a bronze medalist in in border cross and a bunch of big mountain skiers and Jeremy Jones and Matt Segal who is a climber based in Boulder as well.
So there’s a bunch kind of heavy hitters in the outdoor space and I think all of us were were definitely impressed with our ability to one just have a conversation and also kind of like be direct about you know asking those legislators What are they doing. Can they get more involved and I think a lot of people you know Republicans were really interested in in you know trying to find a path into that arena so to speak.
So I think it was a super positive outcome for all of us. We were everybody was really pleased and I think the other thing is in terms of the auto industry and kind of that idea of activism through adventure I think an association with Protect Our Winters I think a lot of us are kind of as a group starting to find our collective voice. You know there’s a lot of influence that exists there through social media and otherwise and I think you know being able to flex those muscles to help kind of protect the places that we recreate and play I think is really important. Right
Well that was definitely something unexpected that you know we were able to just chat about since that just happened. Yeah right. I guess yesterday I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning got on plane and on here.
Right. Awesome. So let’s kind of back up and get into your story a little bit. I was really curious what was life like in the Larsen household growing up as is everybody and explorers everybody climb and you know it was just craziness. I don’t know if you have siblings or or you kind of the black sheep when it comes to this stuff.
Yeah it’s interesting you know I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I am the way I am and I’m not totally sure that I have the answer. But I do think my background and my upbringing has a lot to do with it. You know I grew up in a in a house that was very focused on being outside and you know we went to a lot of family trips as kids like camping trips. You know we would never stay in a hotel at any stretch.
And my dad was actually very much involved in just environmental issues he was the director of a nature center. So I grew up as a kid like collecting prairie seeds and and banning birds and like my friends and one of my friends were like What are you doing. Like they had no idea and it was actually as a kid it was pretty awkward for me.
My parents were very focused on that and that natural aspect of the environment and I was very much drawn to the your side just as as on an individual level. And so I had a lot of support in that arena. But you know back then in Wisconsin there isn’t this bigger network of adventure and it’s always fun for me or funny I guess to compare like the world now versus back then and we just didn’t have this bigger perspective that a lot of people can really get through.
You know Internet media social media today. And so I didn’t know I knew that I like to do these kind of outdoor trips. And I was just trying to find my way to adventure and whatever I could you know like when I was in eighth grade I got a paper and saved up enough money and got a bicycle you know and then I was just able to go.
That was like I allowed me to go out and just explore on my own because that’s what I wanted to do. So I would grab a map and I would write 60 70 80 miles you know and stop at a bar and grab a Coke and you know keep riding I mean this was this as a 12 year old kid you know. Sure. And so that was like me kind of like trying to discover the world for myself. And it kind of progress in there. But like I said in Wisconsin there was no kind of infrastructure set up for somebody like myself to be able to kind of get more in those skills and so I just kind of did it on my own.
You know I was lucky enough to be involved in a few kind of youth groups that were doing adventure trips and you know I was able to get a taste of some of these things and then just started kind of planning my own trips from there with friends and you know we would make up adventure in any way we could we would like canoe down the river in our town we’d portage down a canoe down main street in my small little town you know and then keep going just because we wanted to do a fun adventure.
We’d you know take our bikes and go somewhere or whatever it was so we were just trying to find adventure and whatever way we could. And it just kind of went outward from there.
Sure. I mean now everybody like you said they have so much influence to things like this you look on Instagram and people are out there campaign and posting pictures and everything I guess. When we were kids. It was more about having those old National Geographics laying around and things like that.
Yeah. That was literally it. And there was no like path.
Like a career. So for somebody who’s passionate about nearly anything today if your passion a rock climber there’s there are people that are professional rock climbers and you can see that. So there’s a line that you can connect and even in a lot more abstract careers you just have access that information you understand that you know you could be interested in photography and potentially be a you know professional photographer.
But you know I just those those avenues weren’t all open or didn’t exist. And we and a lot of those careers didn’t exist at that time. So for somebody like myself who was really passionate about the outdoors I always say I wanted to be a professional camper. Like I just loved camping but that job didn’t exist at all no. You know it still does. But it was it was kind of what my goal was and you know I was lucky enough that I just kind of believed in that idea for whatever reason long enough that it was able to come to fruition.
Sure. So where does Colorado kind of come into the picture of what what brought you here was you know and you know when kind of in your life would you like I’ve got to get to Colorado. That’s where I need to be to keep this exploration career going. Or was that kind of a decision or was it just you know to be in the mountains of you know kind of take.
Yeah well you know the funny thing about growing up in the Midwest is is that Midwest is very focused on the Midwest and I love being from that area. A lot of great friends there’s a lot of great things about the Midwest. And as a kid I remember seeing a Colorado license plate and just being like you know just the license plate alone like you know the Green Mountains it’s so different than any other license plate in in our country and very emblematic of the state as well.
And to me that represented just the ultimate wilderness and realistically for my entire life you know I’d read a lot of historical exploration books and I was just fascinated by this idea wilderness. And so I had that idea of Colorado being one of those really iconic wild places and when I graduated college roommate of mine had a job as a whitewater canoe guide out here and I had been up in Alaska at that time and doing a few other trips.
And and he’s like come on out. I think I can get you a job and without any certainty of a job I you know loaded up my 1985 Subaru Geo wagon and you know drove out I-70 for 17 hours and landed in Denver and lucky enough just kind of like talked my way into packing food for those trips and then getting on the trips and eventually guiding those that summer and that was way back in the day like 95.
So I spent a couple of summers guiding those Whitewater trips here in Colorado and just through various work left and kind of settled in a remote area of northern Minnesota and was kind of going about my thing but as I started planning for my trip in 2010 to the North Pole South Pole Mount Everest I realized like I don’t really know anything about mountains.
You know I had kind of set this goal of climbing Mt. Everest with doing this trip to both poles and being from the Midwest. Again we don’t really know much about mountains and while I had been out in Colorado previously I you know I hadn’t been on the water most of the time. And so I was like OK I think I think I need to be in a place where I can be at altitude where I can train and concurrently had also met my now wife. And so a lot of factors just kind of came into play. I’ll say it’s for my wife but it’s also just as important just for mountains. Sure.
And it was a great trip. It was a great transition for me. I’ve been living in northern Minnesota a place that I really love but it’s very again I kind of I didn’t realize it at the time but for someone who was involved in adventure there just wasn’t that bigger community. I mean there’s a lot of I had a lot of friends that we did find trips but there wasn’t this bigger community of people who were really involved in like leading edge expeditions. And so for me to come out to Boulder was a really eye opening experience and a lot of levels in it. And quite honestly it opened a lot of doors and facilitated me basically being where I am today.
Right. And I. I get that feedback from a lot of the people that I’ve spoken with in totally different areas that you’re one of the things that’s really you know Colorado is kind of on fire right now and one of the things that’s making it great in that way is obviously people are moving here for lifestyle but they’re getting real support professionally in all sorts of different fields it’s just a very open kind of collaborative environment. And so you know you’re not the first person who’s who’s mentioned that. And again everything from obviously tech type things going on here food and it’s a place to be for professional adventuring.
I mean you look at I mean just Boulder alone. It’s crazy. I do a lot of biking. So my game that I always play when I’m biking when I see somebody else bike and I just go pro or not pro you know because there’s so many professional athletes that are very professional bicyclists you get triathletes runners climbers skiers snowboarders you know you name it. And so and that’s just in the sporting community. And obviously you have all these other industries that are here too but from an adventure perspective you know there’s world class rock climbing here and you’ve got access to world class skiing out an open air mountaineering as well. And you know Alpine environments and so it and there’s good access in and out. So a lot of today a lot of modern adventurers do a lot of traveling. And so like I was telling you earlier you know I arrived in the airport today and fly out tonight.
That adds a lot you know like we’re coming and going. A lot of people are coming and going and so being able to get to the airport you know as much as those are a part of my actual adventure it’s it’s a facet of life the life as it stands right now.
Sure. Nothing like being able to get good access hopefully even a direct flight it saves on time every day. You know we all are looking for that and I love how you mentioned the license plate because I remember when I moved here and got my license plates transferred and they were like well which ones do you want because they have all these options down like I just want the green and lights. Yeah. You
know that’s why whenever I see one whenever I see the white ones I’m like What are you doing. Hi Green. There’s only one license plate that you should get. Exactly
Exactly. That’s amazing. So like kind of getting into your expeditions. The I was doing research and you know one of the things that you’ve been saying you know so George Mallory said you know famously about why are you going to climb Mt. Everest because it’s there. You know what you’re the message you’re kind of getting across now with your expeditions especially in the Arctic is that you’re doing it not because it’s there but because it it might not be there in the future. Do you have some really unique perspective like your first North Pole expedition was in late 2006 I believe and then the most recent one was in 2014 and there’s a lot of arguments why.
You know you’ve stated why it might be the last one. Yeah. And so I guess the documentary that you were able to let me watch which I appreciate it was amazing I’m yelling at my computer screen and I was watching it. It’s on Animal Planet I believe.
Yeah it was on Animal Planet and Discovery.
And it’s actually still playing globally on Discovery channel so I every once in awhile get like an email from Argentina or Japan or whatever. Like oh we just saw the documentary so it’s cool that it’s still cycling through right and getting shown.
So so for for people who haven’t seen it though like walk us through you know what had changed in in those years since when you first started going and now. And you know some of the I guess no obvious climate and technical reasons why that 24 expedition might be the last one.
Yeah yeah. I mean just taking a step back. You know I kind of arrived early at this love of adventure but also as someone who really likes to be outside just the love of our environment. And I also you know really like winter. And so it seemed like a pretty direct step to use my adventures as an advocacy tool as well as well as you know ultimately like back in the day it was just like firsthand observations you know because so often we were you know getting questions about you know is this is the melting really happening like they say it is.
And so it was just kind of bearing witness to those places. But also you know Arctic in Antarctica and a lot of cool voices are really abstract to people. And so you know we don’t have much of a connection to those places.
And so for me a lot of my adventures were really important to be to put a human experience to kind of overlay that physical journey in that emotional kind of journey as well that we’re going through to build that connection to what that place is like versus It’s just an abstract place that if it melts it doesn’t matter. And I like it if it’s two degrees warmer I want to put on you know snow pants in the winter.
So that’s kind of like the background of where things are at. And I’ve been kind of on this like mission for a long time and you know a lot of my wife and all my differences like why are you going back to the north pole so I first Mannatech for 2005 we reach the North Pole and in summer in 2006 and it was a it was an incredible journey.
It was very unique a world record and to me that kind of just solidified how this adventure component can really work in to telling this bigger story. And so I kept trying to go back and reach more people because I. Because you know politically that I odd ideologically in our country we kept having this conversation that was kind of cycling around. Is this science real. Is it really melting.
And so as this conversation is still spiral with no real action taking place I’m observing that and trying to figure out how I can get people to notice this place that because I’ve been there and spent a lot of time there and am seeing these changes firsthand. And so that’s kind of the thing that kept me coming back. And ultimately you know between 2006 and 2014 the character and the nature of the CIA is very different you know.
So from our summer expedition we had big sheets of ice that we could ski across for several hours. And in 2006 in 2014 where it’s just a surface of rough ice much thinner ice and much more sporadic movements of the ice to the point now where the ice is so unstable that the that you know the real limiting factor of North Pole expeditions isn’t so much the ice although that’s changing dramatically it’s the logistics network that’s shutting down so the ability to get a plane in and land safely no longer exists. So in reality know our 2014 North Pole expedition will be the last human powered land to North Pole expedition history right.
Yeah because you otherwise have to be able to go out and back.
Yeah there is.
There’s logistically it’s it’s like almost impossible the conditions are changing so much. You know we have overall the temperatures are warmer in the Arctic now which kind of makes things easy but you have this kind of type of ice it’s much different and so it’s and it’s a really difficult. And for me it’s probably one of the most unique expeditions on our planet.
And so that’s another reason why I kept going back up because it’s an amazing challenge and you can you can do that journey you know every year and it’s going to be different every time because the ice is constantly changing not only just year to year but minute to minute because there’s all these drift patterns and currents that break up and and fracture the ice.
Right. Yeah and that’s you know what you pick up from watching that documentary. There’s just so many things and you know I don’t want to give it away to people. They should watch it. It’s amazing.
I was totally gripped I was actually traveling last weekend when you sent it to me and I was in my hotel room and I pulled up on my laptop I was like let me just check this thing out for like you know I got to watch like five minutes. But you know I wanted to kind of get outside wander around because I was you know having fun in Chicago and it was an hour and a half and I couldn’t stop. I had to sit there and watch the entire thing and like I said by the end of the thing I was just like lose my mind.
Yeah it was. It was hard.
I mean that was it’s I called the most difficult expedition. It’s a really hard trip and people have a hard time understanding why that’s the case. But it’s a really hostile environment. And and for that to ever feel like it felt like everything was stacked against us. Well those ice conditions logistics pullovers our food you know you name it.
And yeah it’s hard. And I and I feel very lucky that we were able to record that. It took a lot of effort in a very real way. You know like I’m kind of on an anti fluff campaign overall in terms of you know we live in this world where we’re where we’re constantly barraged by these like ideal moments. And it’s very easy in adventure to want to put. Or as you’re talking about things that put your best foot forward.
And that’s just not how life works. You know like we’re not always our best people and you know the really unique thing about adventures is it really stripped bare the person that you are. And at a certain point there you are. And so that’s really unique I think it’s compelling for people. It’s that emotional connection that I have and try.
But the hard part is trying to film that in that moment when you’re like worried about almost getting in by a polar bear. Do you really want to get the camera out or would you just like Wanda leaving. Get out of there. And so our inclination is to get out of there or versus film. Right
And then what you’re mentioning right there really leads perfectly into another question. I really wanted to ask which was you in that movie leading up to this moment and having that human side of things. How do you find the right partner for an expedition like that. I mean when you say I want to do an unsupported trip to the North Pole how many people are raising their hands and how do you know that if there’s only a handful you know that you’ve got the right guy because I would imagine you know there’s not that many people who want to do it. But you need them. You know it obviously is an important dynamic when you see like the psychological side of an adventure like that.
Yeah that’s a good question. You know the team aspect there what I view is really important you know I always say like I’m just completely average person like average height average or below the average intelligence and intelligence. So I rely a lot on other people to help me achieve these things. And you know for our 2014 trip there is and I was just talking to Ryan about this the other day as like you know I we couldn’t have done that trip without one another. You know I had a lot more experience than Ryan did and I was able to kind of step up from navigational and just overall planning perspective and but at a certain point like everything becomes non-important when it’s so difficult.
And I think Ryan’s focus and Dr. help me out because I serve what I’m like. I’ve already been an oracle Why am I out here suffering in a life threatening situation I got it at that time I wanted to have a kid like that something like doing an expedition isn’t the most important thing.
Being a dad is the most important thing. And Ryan’s focus really helped me out. But the team the team member thing is interesting actually. I just did a funny thing. We did a live video Ryan and I just had this idea and we did what I call expedition partner Newlywed Game.
So we were just like we put all these questions in the hat and we just pulled them out.
And because we spent so much time together on expeditions that it’s like you know it’s like a marriage almost. Sure. And so we you know we were kind of asking each other like who knew more about you know whatever it is favorite food or you know and it was kind of fun but the teammate thing is hard. You know I do think there’s a lot of people who would be interested in the trips I do. I always say be careful what you wish for because it might come true.
That said like the skills required for these big types of trips we just lose a lot of people that have them and not that they’re impossible to learn. But to step into an environment like the Arctic Ocean with no prior experiences that’s a that’s a that’s a big ask of someone and you know.
So there’s a lot of different things for me. I think the priority is personality. We need to have compatible personalities. We don’t necessarily need to have the exact same skill sets because I don’t think that’s necessarily the most effective. But we want to have complementary skill sets and Ryan and I have absolutely complementary Ryons much more home in the mountains. I’m much more home in the poorer environments.
I’m a little better on the fundraising side. You know Ryan’s got this kind of steadfastness that works out really well you know it’s crazy we have been doing adventures together for I don’t know like eight years or something and we’re still great friends. You know he just texted me before I came over here so and I’m just working on this other project where we’re I have a videographer friend of mine and I was literally Also driving over here on like what is it that makes the perfect partner.
28:13 Because it’s hard. And the rewards are so abstract that you have to have this in this more individual motivation. So there’s a lot I mean I could talk for like 10 hours on this thing but I think about it a lot. And
28:29 like I said just today and you know it’s it’s interesting just because you know life today is so crazy and there’s so many different facets and so for me focus on these adventures 100 percent and then trying to get somebody who has that equal opportunity that like stop what they’re doing go away for two months or two weeks or whatever it is like. That’s just that’s just not necessarily the easiest thing for anybody to imagine. And then you’ve got this other issue for the bigger trips. You’re doing one thing for two and a half months.
28:59 I mean that doesn’t happen at all. I imagine in your life where you wake up and you don’t see anybody else and you go to sleep. You don’t see anybody else and not just for a day or a week but nearly two months. I mean that’s like old school acceleration where they were gone for three years. I mean we’re like a day without getting a text. You know if you text somebody they don’t text you back in an hour you think they’re dead. Right. So and not that I don’t I mean I don’t I don’t I sound like a Luddite like I love modern life. You know I don’t want to go back in time but that’s the cool thing about these adventures and I’m kind of getting off subject but they offer this unique perspective on our planet that we don’t get as much anymore. And I think that has a lot of value. No
29:38 I mean there’s definitely some aspects of your life as an adventurer that embody what people are really trying really hard to achieve right now is thinking about this earlier. Unplugging is definitely one of them. Your
29:52 unplugged when you go on these things I mean more or less is surprisingly we’re actually pretty connected right.
29:57 But from her you know.
30:00 But you’ve got 12 hours on the ice at least where you’re just walking along. And then that idea that you know people are finally starting to wrap their brains around the idea of prioritizing experiences over over things. Right. And that’s definitely what adventure is all about. By
30:16 definition basically totally.
30:19 So I always say the best way to determine what’s important to yourself is to remove everything in your life. And that’s exactly what these adventures do because you’re stripped down of everything and very quickly you get to understand what you need and what you want right. And it becomes very clear and that’s why the expedition to heart because at a certain point somebody determines that and say and they see that this adventure doesn’t matter. And that’s a hard point but it’s also a good realization for them. Or you say yes this matters but there’s these other things. And so you come back from those trips like really forever changed and you have this really clear understanding of priorities in life. And it goes to a resource side as well because if you look at it like we’re self-contained for nearly two months everything that we need is and that is in that slot.
31:13 So that’s another need versus want you look at you know and I’m the same way. I mean I love photographers are a bunch of cameras bikes over a couple bikes you know and this is a great shirt or whatever and everything that we have for two months is in that slot. And you know it’s uncomfortable at times but for the most part we’re making it happen. Right. So those are some lessons that you just can’t help but learn. Right.
31:36 And you know that’s I think one of the one of the many beautiful aspects of of adventure when it sounds to me was interesting that you know you mentioned right there that you were catching up with Ryan and still kind of going over what you got out of this expedition a few years later you’re still I mean are you still kind of.
31:57 Oh yes. I just yeah I mean these are a lot yeah.
32:01 And the lessons I think like they’re ongoing right now. And you know there’s definitely like some immediate takeaways and then there’s the things that just you know happen over time and and there’s also just with Ryan there’s a shared experience like we went through a really hard time. You know one of my newlywed questions around was like who cries more. And because you know we’ve seen each other at our worst our lowest and our most like kind of bear so to speak. So you know I think the lessons are ongoing and you know again sometimes it takes me a while to catch up on things. But there there are those moments where you’re like oh yeah this is what this is or you’re in your life situation you know doing you know washing the dishes. And you kind of remember that one moment and how that applies to the situation or whatever.
32:50 So it’s it’s kind of an ongoing process and I wouldn’t say like on this completely change person. It’s just kind of this continual thing and you know some of the lessons that I have learned that 150 50 times and something sometimes like oh yeah I’ve never realized that before. Right.
33:05 Like getting in the shower you’re like water on your shoulder. Seriously. That’s exactly it.
33:12 That’s amazing. So what’s life like in between expeditions like that. I know it evolves as your family is kind of changing and it’s changed even since that documentary came out. Is it always kind of planning the next thing or do you always have the next adventure kind of in mind or sometimes are you waiting for the light to go off and then start planning around that or.
33:36 Yeah it’s a lot of things you know it’s constantly on my mind. You know I always say when I’m on an expedition all I can think about is being home with my family and when I’m home I just am thinking about trips. Funny enough I was just saying what Jeremy Jones were in D.C. and I was talking to him about some of my early trips and we were kind of just exchange stories and I was said you know back then I was just like an animal for stuff like I would wouldn’t let anything get in my way. You know no risk was too big. And I just I don’t know if it was blind ambition or what it was but it was this sense of this is where I want to go and I’m going there no matter what. And I remember one of my expeditions partners asking me Eric when is it going to be enough for you.
34:27 And I said I don’t know. You know like I don’t know what is going to be enough but I’m so going. And that perspective has changed a lot for me. You know having kids I never really thought much about being a dad prior and when we kind of started having discussions about having kids as I go you know we’ll see what happens. Is like an expedition. We’re like we’re right and I just go up there and see what happens. And I am uncomfortable with unknown’s. And but it’s been easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life I love being a dad. I love taking care of my kids. I love you know seeing the world through their eyes and you know taking them on adventures and trying to facilitate their interest not just mine but see what they’re interested in.
35:12 Try to find ways that they can you know meet the world or whatever. So it’s it’s and it’s harder now to be gone awry and I were in Nepal 2015 we’re on this ridge line going up and to nowhere where nobody had been before and things down like this one hundreds and hundreds of feet. And I’m just like I shouldn’t be here you know but I still have that drive to do adventures and I have kind of these ideas that are that are kind of far reaching. I have a list officer’s adventures I want to do for the next four or five years and then and then but then it takes a while to get the passion about it. So it’s just kind of like sitting on things and I’m kind of at that point again now and it seems to be on that for the big trips is kind of like a two year cycle or whatever.
36:02 And then the other part is like you know there’s a lot of logistics and planning and fundraising goes. The big polar trips and some of his other ones. And financially that’s a huge burden and it’s a scary one. And so if you kind of throw it out there. My thing is like you got to do it and you’ve got to make it happen and so that’s whole lot of stuff that goes into that. And you know there’s a lot of sacrifices that come along and you know with the family it’s a little harder to think about some of those sacrifices words like I don’t mind if I eat ramen noodles for two months you know because I don’t have any money.
36:37 But the kids might.
36:39 Although my son does love ramen so that’s hopeful. That’s you know that’s the business side of that career right. Yeah. Fund fundraising and things like that. Not every you know kind of getting back to what we were saying about the Instagram world not everybody is you know Red Bull sponsored guy who’s got they don’t have you know the helicopter shows up when they need it and there’s nothing like that a lot of you know for a lot of different sports and a lot of the most different realities is that a lot of work to put all those resource.
37:12 Yeah I think even the Red Bull guys you know how a lot have a lot of work to do there’s obviously a bigger sport now or you know it’s easier now than what it was.
37:20 There’s a lot of the same structure. I have a bunch of great companies that I work with that support me and have for many many years I’ve built up a lot of great relationships so it’s not the hardest thing but it’s it’s a challenge because you know you’re still doing big budgets and you know for a company to back a trip that has an uncertain outcome. It’s a risk and you know they’re on tight budgets. Everybody there is working hard. It’s it’s it’s but it’s a fun puzzle that I like. I mean I love the adventures but the the nice thing about what I do now is I like all the other parts too. So I like trying to find those pieces I like trying to you know tell my story unique ways I like trying to take a really good picture that has an emotional side to it. You know I like writing something that explains my perspective a little bit more relates to something that I’ve done so a lot of it is all fun. It just is constant and and it’s a hustle but life.
38:22 Well one of the things you mentioned was making some of these adventures be a little closer to home. So what are your next ones I think is this Colorado triathlon is that.
38:33 So I was I was I’ve been thinking about this all morning we’re we’re trying to figure out the name and I think it’s going to be called the Colorado a thon.
38:41 I don’t know if I’m necessarily the branding guy for this stuff but you know I often wonder if I’m really change or if I’m just the same person I think I might be just the same person because I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of these things forever and back in the day. You know I live in the Midwest I was just trying to have adventures and I was trying to be original. And and I.
39:06 And in that sense we would you know get our mountain bikes and we would mountain bike and then we would get to a lake and we brought you know we got these inner tubes and we’d inflate the inner tubes and we’d put the bikes on there stripped down swim across the lake and then keep biking and you know and just trying to put these arbitrary parameters on things just so we could have a fun time. And so we could you know it wasn’t any sort of world record. We
39:31 just wanted to have an adventure we wanted the challenge we wanted to kind of push our physical limits a little bit in not this crazy way. And so we would just do those things. Not not for any greater reason than it was fun and you know sometimes we got really cold and sometimes you know we got lost or whatever. But that’s what it was and I think not that adventure has strayed away from there but I think it’s important for us to remember that adventure can be whatever we want and we also have this ability to do these unique things we don’t have to follow everybody else. And so that’s kind of the mindset that I’ve been in recently and this idea of like how can I do that in Colorado this place that I really love where we kind of set some of these arbitrary parameters that are a little more severe. So
40:18 I thought wow I really love biking. I love backpacking and I you know haven’t been in whitewater canoe got. I like being on the. I love water. And I grew up in canoes and whatnot so I had this idea of kind of traveling across the state of Colorado on this human powered way with these arbitrary parameters of biking from the eastern border up through the Rocky Mountains and then getting over towards crumbling and switching to backpacks and back into the flatout wilderness and then getting down near a rifle and then having some pack rafts and inflating those and then and then paddling towards the Utah border just as this idea of adventure and I feel like I’m drawn to these kind of expeditions and adventures that have these bigger themes to them because I feel like I’ve gotten so lucky from the things that I have learned from this event so I want to pass along some insights not like you need to do it this way but the like hey here’s something you may not have realized like you could be in Boulder and you could you know bike up to Brainerd lake or something or you could swim somewhere.
41:24 Who knows what you know like I just think there’s a real opportunity and we’re in a really unique time to do fun things that can also challenge us but that are also unique to each person. And so that’s where that idea came from. And and you know I have this other big philosophy which is like have fun do good. So with any of my bigger trips I think we all have a responsibility to kind of leave the world a better place in whatever way and I’ve gotten so many great gifts out of wilderness experiences that I thought for this trip and this conversation about adventure we could work with the big city mountaineers and on a fund raising because they’re big city Mountaineers which is based in gold and is really focused on wilderness programs for disadvantaged youth.
42:07 So being able to give some of those other people experiences that I’ve had because I feel like I’ve gotten so much out of those wilderness adventures throughout my life.
42:17 So what say you know when you’re not on a big adventure and I love that idea of just like what’s in your backyard and you know that’s where you are kind of day to day and that’s what you choose to live in a place like this where some of these things are right in your backyard and you know it doesn’t again it doesn’t have to be the hugest thing or the craziest thing. You know just going for a hike. You never know where it’ll lead you totally never know when you’re going to come across a snake in the path or you know anything that gets to your heart kind of going. So when you’re not a you know off somewhere else like where where in Colorado you know what are some favorite spots like what are you kind of doing.
42:56 Yeah I mean I have a lot of responses and we’re pretty lucky because we were able to spend the summer across the butte and I love that town. I
43:05 love that area and it seems like every day I’m there I’m discovering a new place like we were just a Blue Mesa reservoir with our kids and it was like we call a beach day because there’s you know you wouldn’t expect to be able to have them in Colorado but we did and the kids loved it but I love Crested Butte for its access to wilderness. I’ve been a bicyclist forever so I love road biking the mountain biking and so the mountain biking in Crested Butte is ridiculous as is just like I do a lot of photography so being able to just get out and snap a couple of pictures just for fun. So that whole Ganesan Valley to me is like one of my favorite places in Colorado living in Boulder. Obviously we’re right here at the front range. I’m in North Boulder so I tend to stay that direction.
43:53 But you know honestly one of my favorite things to do is hike up Cinny this lake. I love the hike up and eat this because you can literally just walk out your back door and hike up that mountain and I love that. And there’s a lot of times when nobody is up there you know if you hit it in the right time or I go up there a lot in the wintertime when I’m training I put a pack full rocks and I just hike up serious. And there’s been a lot of times where it’s just like you know it’s like 20 degrees and everybody’s like in all their clothes or whatever and you’re the only the only person up there even like you can head an evening or morning or just sometimes. And you’re the only person up there you can kind of hear the buzz the traffic and you just look out at that flat plane you can see the flat irons Either way it’s a beautiful spot and it’s so accessible you know in town I think that’s one of my favorite things to do and I do a lot of road biking so I’m up and down the front range and Left-Hand canyon right up toward peak to peak like I could do that every day.
44:53 You know it’s just I just love it. I never get tired of looking at it. All those things.
44:57 Yeah it’s it’s real special. And that’s the news because I’m on the same side of town as you know and when people are in town that’s the first thing you do is you take them right there. So it’s right out of the backyard and then you can end up right in town grabbing a beer afterwards. So we were very fortunate. I definitely think so.
45:18 Yeah I mean Colorado is amazing because you know you kind of like as an outsider you think of the Rocky Mountains as just being the Rocky Mountains.
45:26 But each little area has a super unique personality. You know and even like from Crestview to Telluride I mean those are two completely different sets of mountains. And so to me it’s fun to like get to know a warm place but also kind of reach out and find a bunch of others as well. Right right.
45:46 And the last question I’d like to ask people when they’re when they’re on the podcast. Who would you like to hear on this. Who do you think our audience would just you know get a great story out of here.
45:56 I mean like there’s there’s a huge list of people in Boulder you know obviously I’m more connected in the outdoor world. And so as well as like a lot of my partners are here I mean there’s the guy from scratch labs that are that are based in Boulder. I’ve got a good friend. He’s he’s a little on the periphery but he’s doing a really cool archaeological work down in Peru His name is Preston Sol. he’s a great guy. I feel like I would be really interested as well as a bicyclist to know a little bit more about kind of living and training here in the front range from either pro biker I know Taylor Phinney and lives here right. Or any of the triathletes that are here. I mean I feel like that that perspective of like training here on that level to me is really interesting.
46:49 I mean I’m involved in it. I don’t necessarily equate myself with like a pro bike racer who’s got a you know an exponentially level higher of discipline that I do. So and then you know there’s some amazing scientists here that I think are really interesting you know like I’ve done some work with NSIDC the National Snow and Ice Data Center and that is another unique aspect of all of that I think sometimes gets overlooked is like all the science that goes on here. You know from like there’s guys that see you that are like working with NASA and there’s like any car that’s doing this incredible you know Atmospheric Research and Environmental Research and the ice guys that I see and this I do see I mean I can make a list like. Hunter is long. Right. So but those are the things that I’m personally interested and I would love to to hear more about for sure.
47:43 Yeah. When I first moved here you know I knew about the outdoors the stuff from the high level. It’s a great place to be outdoors. Very accessible. I didn’t know that all of these awesome science labs were here and things like that so that was something that I just wasn’t on my radar. You know the people who are living here and having access the outdoors and you know the brainiacs are just going crazy in these science labs it’s amazing.
48:10 Totally yeah. I have a friend ironically who’s from my hometown who I hadn’t seen in like 15 years and I was up at Luckies market one day a bunch years ago and there he was standing and he was like almost my neighbor. Ironically I just ran him to the airport today. Come coming in and he has a funny phrase he’s like you know East Coast he’s like people there with the biggest pocketbook wins. He says Colorado it’s the best lifestyle that wins. And you know I tell people that a lot of out here it’s like people work very hard and are very focused on their careers and and their families. But it’s not up to us. Nobody is willing to sacrifice their lifestyles.
48:52 Well and I think I think you know kind of going on with their discussion what adventures and lessons I think and an idea of being connected to the environment and outside I think that’s one of the beautiful things about Colorado and I think obviously while a lot of people are here.
49:08 Right. But I think that sums it up. And I think we can leave it on that note again I really appreciate you being here. It’s really fascinating to meet you and we’ll try to get some of these other people on the podcast as well. But thanks a lot thanks for your time. Awesome. Thank you. Appreciate it. All.
All right thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Eric Larson on Colorado.FM, the Colorado podcast. as you can imagine it was a real treat for me to have the opportunity to sit down with him as we mentioned in the intro.
You can find the links to connect with Eric to find any related articles or content the show notes is up to if you enjoyed it please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave review if you have a few moments. It really helps get the podcast and of course I learn a lot from your feedback if you prefer to get our updates email or use a podcast service of stitcher or Android. You can learn more at Colorado.FM/Subscribe. Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time.